I get lots of the same questions over and over. In these Baking and Recipe FAQ I’m going to try and answer as many as I can.
The recipes I post are made by me. Sometimes I have to test things more than once. Usually if something works well the first time, that’s the only time I make it. One promise I’ll make: I will never post a recipe that doesn’t work for me. That means, if the recipe is on this site, it worked for me.
Please know that I cannot respond to every comment/email I receive. I try as hard as I can but sometimes things get missed due to the volume of email I receive, especially if it’s a weekend or a holiday. I take vacations and have tech-free meals with my family so I’m not online every second. If you need an immediate answer that can’t be found here, google might be faster. It’s amazing what you can find in an internet search!
If your question isn’t about baking or recipes:
- About Me to learn about me and the blog. (I’ll save you a click: Abby is a Labradoodle.)
- My favorite baking pans and equipment are listed here.
- My photography section talks about all of the equipment I use for photo and video.
- Check out my blogging section for the few posts I’ve written about blogging.
I made your recipe and it didn’t turn out. What went wrong?
Honestly? I don’t know. As much as I wish I could be in your kitchen with you, I can’t be. We have to keep in mind that baking can be different for everyone. Experience, oven temperature, different brands, altitude, substitutions – these all make a difference in the outcome of the recipe.
Read through the FAQ below to see if you can pinpoint the problem. If you can’t find it, I’m happy to help you troubleshoot, just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment on the post in question. Let me know if you made any substitutions or omitted any ingredients. Did you use a different pan size or a different kind of flour? Knowing those things can help me troubleshoot what went wrong.
This recipe is horrible; the (insert recipe title) turned out dry and crumbly or gross or failed completely!
I wish I could say for 100% certain what the problem was. Again, recipes fail for so many reasons! Please remember: taste is subjective. If you make a recipe and hate how it tastes, maybe the recipe is just not for you. If it really didn’t turn out then:
- Did you measure your flour correctly? Learn how to measure flour here. Spoon don’t scoop; and don’t pack it.
- Do you need to mix it more? If you’re stirring by hand or using a hand mixer, often it takes a long time for some doughs to come together. Snowballs and Gooey Bars are the ones I get the most comments on for this reason. Keep mixing and see if the dough comes together.
- Did you make any substitutions? Did you use real butter or a different kind of milk listed? Substitutions will often make a recipe fail, so check and see if you made any.
- Are your ingredients old? When was the last time you bought baking soda or baking powder? They do expire.
I cooked my recipe for the time specified and it was raw/overcooked/burned.
I usually give a range of cooking times because all ovens cook differently. Weather and altitude plays a part too!
Be sure you have an oven thermometer to test the heat in your oven. The dial might say one thing but the inside of the oven might read differently.
If your recipe isn’t done when the time is up, maybe your oven cooks slower than mine. Just keep cooking.
I always check my food halfway through baking to see if it needs to be rotated (or if it’s cooking faster).
If something is browning too much, cover it with foil during baking.
What kind of butter do you use in your recipes?
All of my recipes contain unsalted butter UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED. 99% of the time my recipes are made using Challenge Butter.
Unsalted butter is better in baking because it lets you control the amount of salt in your food. While I understand that, I kind of hate it because it’s all a guessing game…especially before something is baked! If you are using unsalted butter where salted is called for, you need to add ¼ teaspoon salt for each stick (½ cup) of unsalted butter. Reversely, if you’re using salted butter where unsalted is called for, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe by ¼ teaspoon.
Whatever you use, please use REAL BUTTER unless otherwise instructed. Margarine, butter spreads made with oil, shortening, and oil are NOT REAL BUTTER and will perform differenly. Also: using the cheapest butter at the store may cause your recipes to have issues. I know butter is expensive but you get what you pay for.
And while we’re talking about butter, I never remember to leave mine out to soften. I almost always take it straight from the refrigerator and microwave it to soften. I heat it for 10 seconds in my 1100 watt microwave. Then I flip it over and do 5 on the other side. Sometimes 10, but it depends on how cold it was to start with. And I never, ever put the butter in the center of the microwave. I always put it around the outer edge.
Tip: the same thing works for cream cheese, but be sure to remove it from the foil packaging first. I just put it on a plate or in a bowl before popping it in the microwave.
Can I double the recipe?
Most recipes can be doubled easily, especially cookies. A few things to remember:
- If you’re making a cake or something in an 8×8-inch pan it’ll double to a 9×13-inch pan just fine. If the recipe calls for a 9×9-inch pan it may be a tight fit, but it depends on the recipe.
- Baking times when you double may be affected, if you’re using a bigger pan.
My cookies came out flat, what happened?
Whenever I create a cookie recipe I test them baked with and without chilling the dough. Be sure to read the recipe and chill the dough if it’s recommended. Not chilling the dough, making substitutions, and using cheap ingredients will affect the outcome of the recipe.
I’m allergic to eggs/milk/peanut butter/gluten, what do I do?
Honestly, it depends on the recipe. A lot of times changing ingredients will change the outcome of the recipe.
- If it’s a peanut butter recipe, you can most likely substitute almond butter or another nut butter.
- For gluten free baking, be sure and try Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten free all-purpose flour (it’s got a light blue label). I’ve used it with success in cupcakes, muffins, and quick breads. If I’ve tested something with gluten-free flour, it’ll be listed in the recipe notes.
- When it comes to milk, you can often substitute soy milk or any other non-dairy milk for cow’s milk, except for pudding mix or cornstarch recipes.
Again, I haven’t tried all the substitutions you might need, so if you do adapt one of my recipes please let me know how it worked!
Can I cut down the sugar in the recipe?
No, probably not. I understand the need to be healthier when it comes to baked goods and desserts, but baking is a science. Sugar affects the chemical outcome of a recipe; if you omit some of it without compensating in other areas you will probably have issues with the recipe.
How many calories are in this recipe?
I’m working (slowly) on converting all my recipes into the nutritional calculator. However know that a computer is figuring the calories due to selections I make, so nothing is guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Can I freeze this? How long does it last?
I’m not a food safety specialist, so I usually assume most baked goods are good for about 4-5 days and other savory recipes for about 3 days in the refrigerator. But use your common sense!
I freeze almost everything I bake. Learn how to freeze dessert here.
I live at altitude, how does that affect your recipes?
Unfortunately, I have no experience with baking at altitude. I live at sea level and have never lived anywhere higher. Check out this post on King Arthur for high-altitude baking tips.
I don’t have XYZ ingredient, what can I substitute for:
You’re in luck! Check out my entire list of substitutions here.
What baking pans/tools must I have in my kitchen?
Do you make and eat all the food on this website?
I make it all, I photograph it all and I make 90% of the videos too. Do I eat it all? I eat more than I should but no, I give a lot of it away!